So Microsoft has announced the Surface. The reveal created a lot of buzz, so Microsoft won a victory in that regard, but there’s still a long way to go to achieve what must be Microsoft’s ultimate goal: taking on the iPad. And while the specs announced make it seem like Surface could have a real chance, there are things about the announcement that make me nervous.
For example, Microsoft did not announce any pricing details or firm availability dates. Whatever this actually means, I think to consumers it looks like hedging. It’s probably not fair to constantly compare companies to Apple, but that is what every consumer is doing every day, fair or not. And when Apple announces a new product, the company usually announces pricing and availability at the same time—all the ducks in a row.
But enough complaining. Surface does look cool. The casing is made using an approach Microsoft calls VaporMg, which supposedly creates the finish of a luxury watch. The integrated kickstand seems handy for watching videos, and the keyboard cover looks convenient. Called the Touch Cover, the keyboard uses pressure-sensitive technology that senses keystrokes as gestures, and Microsoft says it allows you to type faster than with an onscreen keyboard.
But here’s a really interesting point: two models of Surface will be available, and one is aimed at the business user as a productivity tool. The latter will feature Windows 8 Pro, and this tablet is heavier and thicker than the other model, Windows RT. The Windows 8 Pro device also comes with a stylus that allows you to write on the screen. You can hook up the device to desktop monitors as well using the DisplayPort.
Another thing we don’t yet know about Surface is what type of connectivity options it will offer. Will it be 3G/4G, or Wi-Fi only? It’s hard to imagine Microsoft launching a Wi-Fi-only tablet. But there are a number of important details about Surface we simply don’t know. Until these blanks are filled in, it will be hard to predict how Surface will compete in the market.